ACT News

ACT hot air balloon festival the Canberra Balloon Spectacular begins

With about 45 balloons taking to the skies above the nation's capital, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular excites passengers and spectators alike, writes Kimberley Granger.

Well before the first hint of light had crept onto the horizon on Saturday – usually a time when most of us are tucked up warm in bed – Canberrans were stirring.

While it's spectacularly normal to see a modest few hot air balloons hovering above the city on any day of the right weather, Saturday morning was different.

The first morning of Canberra's Balloon Spectacular saw about 30 hot air balloons take to the skies as the sun started to rise, avoiding prohibited zones, including directly above Parliament House and the Lodge.

Every year, the event draws crowds from across the country  to experience the magic.

For the next week from 6am – if the weather is right – cars towing trailers of near-identical baskets will pull up onto the lawn between Old Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin. Families, retirees and corporate pilots, including locals from Balloon Aloft, will unpack envelopes in an array of colours, lying them out on the dewy grass to begin the inflation.

The loud roar of numerous propane furnaces will fill the air, as hot air is jetted into the balloons, sending them skyward.

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Silhouettes of Yoda and an Angry Bird took shape among traditional balloons against the backdrop of the cool Canberra morning.

Balloon passengers were hauled into the large wicker basket while cameras clicked away.

Spectators peered on as the balloons took to the skies, creating a scene like no other. The majestic balloons soar for about 40 minutes, being propelled up and down by the pilot, and along by winds, at different speeds depending on altitude.

With nearly no wind in the skies early on Saturday morning, many of the balloons hovered slowly above Lake Burley Griffin, something pilot Geoff Howe avoided.

Dispelling the myth that a quick dip in the water was a mistake by pilots, Mr Howe said it was absolutely on purpose.

He said some "show-off" pilots enjoyed a little float on the lake.

"When they drop into the lake, it's called a splash and dash, it's a party trick with the balloon," Mr Howe said.

Despite being a balloonist for 15 years, Mr Howe said he nevers tires of his view from the air.

Free for spectators, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular runs every morning (weather-dependent) until March 15.

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